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Kids Ask the Best Questions About God and the Bible: An Interview with Kathryn Slattery

Kathryn SlatteryChildren ask such questions as, “How do I know the Bible is true?” “What does it mean when the Bible talks about the kingdom of God?” “How can God be three persons at the same time?” “Why couldn’t Jesus just stay on Earth forever?” “What is baptism?” “Who invented time?”

Bible Gateway interviewed Kathryn Slattery about her book, 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids (Tommy Nelson, 2017).

In what way, if any, did Bible Gateway help you write this book?

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Kathryn Slattery: Oh, my goodness, 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids, which is rooted in Scripture, could not have been written without Bible Gateway! This new book took me more than two years to write, and I literally must have entered at least 5,000 Scripture searches and comparisons in the process!

What a far cry from 30 years ago, when my resources for biblical research were limited to my dog-eared Layman’s Parallel Bible (which offered only four translations) and Cruden’s Handy Concordance to the Bible (which, truth be told, was not always so “handy!”)

Today, Bible Gateway sits at the top of my computer’s list of “Favorite” links and rarely a day goes by that I don’t consult it. Personally, I love the site’s “Verse of the Day,” and since I’m not the best memorizer, I’m forever grateful for how Bible Gateway helps me easily find the correct wording, chapter, and verse for favorite scriptures. Professionally, Bible Gateway is, in a word, a godsend. It is, far and away, my most important, essential Scripture resource.

Hooray for Bible Gateway! You’re a blessing to countless seekers and believers around the world, helping us all grow in both love and knowledge of our good and loving God. I just recently downloaded the Bible Gateway App, and it’s terrific, too—especially for searches on the go!

What inspired you to write 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids?

Kathryn Slattery: As the mother of two children, I understand that growing up these days isn’t easy. Children, like grown-ups, need faith. We’re now living in what historians and theologians call the “post-Christian” age. Secular humanism, moral relativism, political correctness, and a brutally raw popular culture have created a moral atmosphere of murky gray where there are few absolutes to help parents and children take a stand on what’s good and bad, right and wrong. Add to that, there’s the harsh cruelty of social media (Thumbs up! Thumbs down!) and our culture’s tendency to measure a person’s worth by their achievements (athletic, academic, artistic) rather than simply loving unconditionally … Oh my goodness. It’s not easy being human, that’s for sure!

At the same time, we can rejoice that children enter this world with a tremendous capacity for faith. For children, believing in God is instinctive. It’s as natural as breathing. As Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14; Luke 18:16).

As adults, it’s not only our privilege, but also our responsibility to nurture our children’s God-given faith. Typically, our children’s Christian education includes involvement in Sunday school, familiarity with the Bible, and routine prayers at meals and bedtimes. But in this challenging day and age, that’s not really enough. It takes a personal, intimate relationship with a loving God to breathe life and meaning into these religious traditions.

During my many years as a fifth grade Sunday school teacher, I was stunned to discover how little my students knew about the Bible and basic Christianity. Their questions really took me by surprise, and I was determined to find a way to help them find meaningful, helpful, age-appropriate answers. Today more than ever, children need to be informed and reassured of these three unchanging, eternal truths:

  1. God is real
  2. God personally loves them
  3. God has a unique purpose for each of their precious lives.

With this as my goal, a few years ago I wrote a book called If I Could Ask God Anything: Awesome Bible Answers for Curious Kids, featuring real-life questions from real-life kids about God, Jesus, the Bible and basic Christianity. Kids, parents and teachers really liked the book and wanted more—lots more! “Please write a 365-day devotional for kids,” they asked. So, I did!

What is your objective in writing this book? Is there a progression?

Kathryn Slattery: Day-by-day, naturally and gently, 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids nurtures and grows the young reader’s love and knowledge of God through a deep and lasting personal relationship with his Son, Jesus. The book begins with an introduction to God our loving heavenly Creator and Father, God’s Son Jesus our Savior, and God’s Holy Spirit, who lives in our human hearts. Each day’s devotion begins with a Bible verse and ends with a short prayer, and is written so that it can be read and enjoyed on its own.

In the book’s introduction, I reassure the young reader to not worry if they miss a day or week or month of readings. I explain that whenever the child opens the book, God is so happy to have their attention, and eager to speak and listen to them in a loving, personal way. If the child wants to read ahead to the next day or go back and read yesterday’s devotion, that’s okay. As I encourage in the introduction, “The more you read, the more you will learn!” To this end, most devotions include a “Want to know more?” interactive cross-reference at the bottom of the page for the extra-curious child who wants to dig deeper and learn more.

What makes this book different from other daily devotionals?

Kathryn Slattery: In addition to introducing the young reader to knowing our loving God through a personal relationship with Jesus, the book also offers a complete introduction to basic biblically-based orthodox Christianity! Day-by-day, over the course of one year, the daily devotions engage both the reader’s heart and mind. In other words, with its unique Q-&-A format, 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids is both inspirational and educational. It serves the dual purpose of being both a classic daily devotional and essential teaching resource. No other devotional does this!

What are your favorite features of the book?

Kathryn Slattery: I love the “Want to know more?” interactive cross-references for extra-curious kids. They remind me of yummy spiritual potato chips: once you’ve tasted one, you can’t stop! They’re steppingstones that lead the child on an exciting faith adventure.

I love the book’s emphasis on building the young reader’s faith vocabulary. Over time, children—like grownups—can and should be empowered to articulate what they believe about God, and why.

I love the way the book is written for all Christian denominations. The daily readings deepen the young reader’s understanding of how faith works both in their own church experience, and also helps them see how they fit into the larger historic, world-wide body of Christ at work in the world today.

I love the book’s incredibly comprehensive Index of 366 Questions which cover the following topics: Time; God; God’s Promises; Jesus; God’s Holy Spirit; The Bible; The Old Testament; The New Testament; Christianity; Prayer; The Church; Christian Seasons, Holidays and Traditions; Being a Christian Here and Now; Being a Christian Forever and Ever; Big Questions, and Famous Christians. Phew!

There are, of course, zillions of questions about God and Jesus and Christianity—way more than can be answered in a single year—but I think kids and grown-ups alike will appreciate the book’s thorough research and accuracy for such a wide range of theological, historical, and faith topics. (In case you’re wondering why there are 366 questions, it’s thanks to Leap Day on February 29!)

Finally, I love the book’s “voice.” Special care was taken to write in fresh, clear, easy-to-understand language, and to respectfully not “talk down” to the young reader! The end result is a book that’s not preachy, dry, dusty or boring! When I was writing the book, I imagined the voice of an everyday mom talking with her child, tenderly, lovingly—and with a little bit of humor, too!

What’s the number one question kids ask about God?

Kathryn Slattery: Little ones are very practical and literal-minded, and want to know answers to questions like, “If God is invisible how can I know he’s real?;” “What does Jesus look like?;” and “Will I see my pet in heaven?”

Bigger kids ask bigger questions, such as “Can I believe in God and still believe in science?;” “Is it okay to pray before a test?;” and “Does it matter to God how much time I spend online and watching TV?” I’ll never forget the day one of my fifth grade Sunday school students raised his hand and asked, “Mrs. Slattery, if God is all-powerful and all-loving, why does he allow evil to exist?” Yikes! Talk about a challenging question!

The amazing truth is, big or small, children basically have the same questions about God as grown-ups.

What’s your favorite question in 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids?

Kathryn Slattery: Oh, there are so many, I hardly know where to begin! Let’s see… Here’s a good one: “Is it true that an astronaut celebrated communion on the moon?” You’ll have to open the book and turn to the devotion for September 27 on page 282 to find out!

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, First Liquid Poured on the Moon and the First Food Eaten There Were Communion Elements]

I also love the question “Is it okay to question and sometimes have doubts about God?” The answer is yes! God loves it when his children ask questions. Questioning God is not unbelief. It’s the sign of a healthy, curious human mind! That’s why I encourage young readers to keep asking God questions. God loves a curious mind and a seeking heart. At one time or another, we’re all like the early believer who cried, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 NIV)!

How do you answer the question in the book, “What should I do when I think a church service is boring?”

Kathryn Slattery: Oh, I’m so glad you asked! This is a great example of one of the more practical, everyone-experiences-this-sometimes questions. Here’s my answer, including the opening Bible verse, closing prayer, and “Want to know more?” cross-references, which demonstrates how they’re like yummy spiritual potato chips!

(October 9) Help! What Should I Do When I Think a Church Service Is Boring?

Continue to think about the things that are good and worthy of praise.
Philippians 4:8 (ICB)

Everyone gets a little sleepy or bored during church sometimes. It’s not always easy to sit still indoors when outside the sun is shining or to stay awake when you’re sleepy. It’s not always easy to pay attention if the preacher is talking about something hard to understand. Not to worry! Jesus was human, so he experienced times of restlessness, sleepiness, and boredom too. In other words, God understands. Here are a few ideas to help you the next time you find yourself a little bit sleepy or bored during church:

  • Tell God how you feel, and ask him to help you.
  • Make a list of all the things you’re thankful for.
  • Make a list of nice things you might do for other people.
  • Pray for all the people you love.

God, when my thoughts wander, remind me to ask for your help.

Want to know more? See August 26, “Can God Actually Talk to Me?”; September 1, “What Should I Do When I Can’t Think of What to Pray?”; and November 28, “What Does It Mean to Count My Blessings?”

How should families use 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids?

Kathryn Slattery: I absolutely love the thought of a young reader curled up in a quiet spot, lost in the pages of the book, and with each passing day being increasingly comforted and reassured of God’s reality and love. I also love picturing a mom or dad with a little one snuggled on their lap, reading and praying out loud together to their heavenly Father. With its Q-&-A format, the book is also perfect for family devotions around the kitchen table. You’d be amazed at the lively conversation each day’s devotion can inspire!

Who benefits most from the book?

Kathryn Slattery: Oh, that’s easy! Everyone who has a precious little one in their life will want to share 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids because it’s a book that promises to make a powerful positive difference in that child’s life. By “everyone,” I mean every mom, dad, grandparent, godparent, aunt, uncle, sibling, friend, Sunday school teacher, home schooling parent—everyone!

What is your favorite Bible passage and why?

I absolutely love the 23rd Psalm. Thanks to Bible Gateway, I only recently committed it to memory, and it’s so reassuring, comforting, and hopeful. As I drift off to sleep, I love picturing Jesus, my Good Shepherd, making me lie down in green pastures … leading me beside still waters … guiding me along his chosen paths … his rod and his staff protecting me. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever” (Psalm 23:6 KJV) Amen! What a beautiful promise!


Bio: Known by millions as a longtime Contributing Editor for Guideposts magazine, Kathryn “Kitty” Slattery has written hundreds of stories of hope and inspiration for a wide variety of publications, including ParentLife, Today’s Christian Woman, and Angels on Earth magazines.

In addition to her latest children’s book, 365 Bible Answers for Curious Kids: An “If I Could Ask God Anything” Devotional (Tommy Nelson), she’s the author of My Friend Jesus (Tommy Nelson), If I Could Ask God Anything: Awesome Bible Answers for Curious Kids (Tommy Nelson), Heart Songs: A Family Treasury of True Stories of Hope and Inspiration (Guideposts Inspiring Voices), the memoir Lost & Found: One Daughter’s Story of Amazing Grace (Guideposts Books), Grandma I’ll Miss You: A Child’s Story about Death and New Life (David C. Cook), The Grace To Grow: The Power of Christian Faith in Emotional Healing, A Bright-Shining Place: the Story of a Miracle, and she’s a contributing author to numerous Guideposts anthologies, and TommyNelson.com. Her children’s book The Gospel for Kids (David C. Cook) has more than 100,000 copies in print in nine languages. Kathryn, who is known as “Kitty,” resides in New Hampshire with her husband Tom, and they’re the parents of two grown children. Visit Kitty and learn more about her work at her website, KathrynSlattery.com and her Facebook Author Page, Kathryn “Kitty” Slattery.

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The Bible and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial, Washington, DCFifty-five years ago, USA civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, DC, where he delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech, in which he included several biblical references:

  • Amos 5:24 (NIV): “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
  • Isaiah 40:4-5 (KJV): “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain….”
  • Psalm 30:5 (NIV): “…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”
  • Galatians 3:28 (NIV): “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Here’s a transcript of “I Have a Dream,” and you can watch it below:

Read the following Bible Gateway Blog posts, in which we examine the Bible verses and themes that permeate Dr. King’s most famous public addresses:

Delve deeper into the topics of race, ethnicity, and justice in the Bible by signing up for Bible Gateway’s two-week devotional Fearfully and Wonderfully Made: A Devotion About Race and Ethnicity. It walks through key Bible passages that inform our understanding of race, racism, and God’s love for all of humanity. Click to sign up.

Bible News Roundup – Week of January 14, 2018

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Celebrating Bible Gateway’s 25th Anniversary

This year, Bible Gateway is excited to be celebrating its 25th anniversary! Bible Gateway launched a quarter-century ago as a Bible research tool for college students. Today it’s the most visited Christian website in the world—home to more than 200 Bible versions in more than 70 languages and a trusted daily resource for more than 140 million people in more than 200 countries.

As part of that celebration, you can enjoy some new aspects of our site. Share Bible Gateway-related stories and enter our sweepstakes, which will be held throughout the year. You can find out more about that and other new features by exploring the brand new MyBibleGateway page. We are here for all your significant moments and all your average days.

As fun as it is for a website like us to look back and realize that we have an internet legacy that has outlived popular fads like Myspace or Napster, Bible Gateway is unique because we’re also part of a much deeper and established legacy. We are grateful and humbled to be a catalyst for spreading God’s Word to his people in a way that is intuitive, up-to-date, and a joy to use.

We are part of that legacy, belonging body and soul to Jesus Christ, just as the first Christians were. Just as Abraham was. Just as David was. Just as we know some of their stories, we want to hear yours. So be sure to visit our MyBibleGateway page and tell us how Bible Gateway has helped you celebrate moments in your life or sustained you in times of crisis or grief.

Bible Gateway, by being a trusted place where Scripture resides, is excited to be a part of a tradition that links us, as to something far older, as well as to something new.

When I think about the unique difficulties that modern-day Christians like us face, I’m keenly aware of our dependence upon digital connectivity. Mobile phones, smart devices, WiFi: there are positive and negative aspects to having that connectivity constantly at our fingertips, but Bible Gateway—a trustworthy companion for reading, understanding, and applying the Bible—is proud to be one of the positive characteristics of an invention as various and as broken as the humans who use it.

From the outset, our mission was to keep the Bible relevant, to infuse it into every part of our lives, into every journey, wherever we found ourselves. If the internet was going to be part of our every single day, we wanted Scripture to be there too.

Twenty-five years ago, who could have known how the prevalence of this digitization would grow. We have it with us now—most of us do—in our pockets and our purses. The internet is where our kids hang out with their friends. It’s one of the first places to which we turn for information and connection. Bible Gateway is there and is a force of God’s voice in that sphere of our lives.

We are excited and proud to be present everywhere you go, and we are dedicated to keeping the Bible in a safe space on a relevant platform. We are here for all your significant moments and all your average days. Bible Gateway can be trusted to continually provide you with the Bible whatever the future brings, and that’s what excites us the most: that we can be an instrument for the Living Word of God to speak to his people in this ubiquitous medium.

How to Encounter God When Reading the Bible: An Interview with Tim Chester

Tim ChesterDo we approach the Bible believing that the One who spoke and brought the universe into existence, whose voice thundered from Mount Sinai, and whose words healed the sick is the same God who speaks to us today through Scripture? Are we reading the Bible not merely to learn information about God but to hear his voice and encounter his presence?

Bible Gateway interviewed Tim Chester (@timchestercouk) about his book, Bible Matters: Making Sense of Scripture (InterVarsity Press, 2017).

What do you mean that you regularly read the Bible because you have to?

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Tim Chester: It’s important first to say what I don’t mean. I don’t mean we need to read our Bibles because there’s some law that says good Christians read a chapter every day. Reading the Bible doesn’t make us more or less a Christian. We have God’s approval because of the righteousness of Jesus. So why is reading the Bible important? One picture I use is eating. I don’t eat because there’s some law that says I must consume three meals I day. I eat because I get hungry—I need to eat food to live and I love food in all its many different tastes. The same is true of the Bible. I read it reach day because I need God’s word to live and because I love it (or rather because I love him).

What are the ways you describe that God speaks to humans?

Tim Chester: God speaks to us through creation, through history, and ultimately through his Son. The Bible is the Spirit-inspired record of that revelation in Christ. So the Bible—read and preached—is the primary way in which God speaks to us today. And the Bible is the measure by which we understand and test every other form of revelation.

How can the Bible be both a human book and a divine book?

Tim Chester: There’s an element of mystery here. The process was not simply one of dictation. The human authors were not simply writing down what they were told to say in the way Muslim’s claim Mohammad received the Quran. The writers of Old Testament history tell us they drew on other written sources. Luke carefully collected his material. Paul wrote letters full of passion to meet specific needs. Throughout the Bible we see the personality of the human authors in what they wrote. And yet the Bible is clear that every word is inspired by God’s Spirit. The Spirit so worked through the human authors that what they wrote were the words of God. It’s this dual authorship that ensures the Bible really connects with us as readers. It’s a word from God written in human language reflecting human experience. When you think of the huge gulf that exists between the Creator and his creatures, it’s remarkable that God communicates with us so clearly and so intimately.

What portion of the Bible did Jesus have in his day and how did he use it?

Tim Chester: Jesus had what we now call the Old Testament. Of course, he wouldn’t have had a copy on his shelf. There were no printed Bibles, only hand-written scrolls read in the synagogue. But Jesus clearly imbibed what he heard for he often quotes the Old Testament. And he always assumes its authority as God’s word.

At the same time he recognized that he’s the fulfillment of its promises. In the Sermon on the Mount he affirms the Law, but then takes it further—or rather deeper—making it a matter of the heart. On the road to Emmaus he shows how he’s the fulfillment of the Old Testament. This is really important. It’s not just that there are a few messianic prophecies. ‘Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets,’ says Luke 24:27, ‘he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’ Notice the word ‘all.’ It’s all about Jesus! In Bible Matters I try to show how that works.

What do you mean the Holy Spirit “activates the Bible”?

Tim Chester: God spoke through the Bible 2,000-plus years ago. But God continues to speak through the Bible. This is so important. Too often we can think of the Bible as a kind of encyclopedia of theology. There’s some truth to that because it’s the key foundation of our thinking. But the Bible is much more than this. It’s a relational Bible through which God speaks—present tense—to us. And it’s the Holy Spirit who makes it living and personal to us today.

It’s amazing: the Spirit who was at work in the authors of the Bible to ensure what they wrote was God’s word is the same Spirit who is at work in the readers of the Bible to ensure what they hear is God’s word.

How is the Bible relational?

Tim Chester: The Bible is not just a repository of information. It’s one of the means God uses to relate to us. He speaks and we listen. I think this is so important. It changes how we view the Bible. It becomes a place of intimacy. It becomes words of love spoken by a Father to reassure his children or by a husband to reassure wife.

One of the reasons people are so obsessed with prophecies and words of knowledge is that we have not rightly emphasised the intimate, relational nature of the Bible. People long to hear a personal message from God that’s specific to them, when in fact that’s what they’re hearing every day as they read their Bibles and every week as they hear it preached.

What does the intentionality of the Bible mean for its readers?

Tim Chester: God wrote the Bible to communicate to us and to draw us into a relationship with himself. Think about what that means. If it’s God’s intention to communicate with us, then we can be confident he will.

In other words, God didn’t write in some kind of secret code. The key message of the Bible is plain. That should give us great confidence as we read the Bible.

Sometimes we think of reading the Bible as one-way traffic. We come with the intent of learning something about God and we’re not sure how we’ll get on. But God is also involved when the Bible is read. And God is intent on communicating to us as we read. So we can and should read the Bible with expectation.

Moreover God’s intent is more than simply to communicate. The Bible is a book that gives life, hope, conviction, wisdom, insight, power. It’s one of the key means by which God is at work in his world. And so it must be central to our lives, our churches, and our ministries.

How reliable is the Bible?

Tim Chester: Completely! If God intends to communicate with us, then we can be sure he will succeed. It’s not just that the Bible is an accurate record of God’s revelation in Christ. It is also ‘fit for purpose.’ We can trust it to achieve what God intends: to bring life to the dead, comfort to the weary, challenge to the proud, and so on.

How do you respond to skeptics who say the Bible is full of contradictions?

Tim Chester: There are lots of ways of addressing the specific issues that people have. But I encourage Christians to start by thinking why it is they trust the Bible. Some people may have explored all the manuscript evidence and worked through all the apologetic challenges. If that’s you, then good for you. But most us trust the Bible because we’ve found it to be trustworthy—simple as that. So talk about that with skeptics. Above all, expose people to the Bible itself. Challenge them to read it for themselves. Remember, God wrote it to bring life. Let it do the job.

What do you mean “death and resurrection are how we come to the Bible”?

Tim Chester: To answer this question we need to take a step back and ask what it is that stops us reading the Bible aright. The answer is our sin. In our pride and selfishness we find reasons to justify what we want to do. And we bring this attitude to the Bible, finding ways to avoid its challenge.

So good Bible reading starts with dying to self. We need to set aside our self-will and our self-justification. That requires prayer for the Spirit’s help and it requires reading the Bible in community so our brothers and sisters can challenge us.

The encouraging thing is that the Spirit give us resurrection life. So we can expect to hear God’s voice through the Spirit. The whole Christian life is patterned on the cross and resurrection—dying to self and living the new life we have in Christ. And reading the Bible is not an exception to this pattern.

Why do you love the Bible?

Tim Chester: There are so many ways I could answer that question. But the main one is this: it leads my Savior. In the pages of Scripture I encounter the Lord Jesus. I see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

How do you want readers of your book to be changed?

Tim Chester: My main desire is that readers have a growing sense of living in relationship with the triune God. And that requires seeing the Bible in a fresh way—not simply as a book about God, but as a book in which we meet God. I want people to come to the Bible expecting to hear God’s voice and encounter his presence.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Tim Chester: That’s easy. It’s whatever I’m working on at the moment. I often find that when I preach I do so with the conviction that nothing is more important that the message of the passage we’re looking at. That’s because, as I’ve prepared, the passage has really gripped my heart. So, for the record, that means Isaiah 49 is my favorite passage. But it will be something different next week!

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Tim Chester: Again, that’s easy. It’s my go-to online Bible. It’s great for finding verses you can only half-remember. I use it a lot for copying Bible verses into sermon notes or writing projects. But, if I may, I do want to encourage people to read the Bible in book form as their default. A paper Bible gives you a much better sense of context and the evidence suggests people retain more when they read physical books.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Tim Chester: In October 2017 we celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. One of the key drivers and principles of that rediscovery of the gospel was the authority, supremacy, and intimacy of Scripture. There would be no better way to commemorate the Reformation than for us to rediscover for ourselves afresh the authority, supremacy, and intimacy of Scripture in our generation.


Bio: Dr. Tim Chester is the pastor of Grace Church Boroughbridge in North Yorkshire, UK, a faculty member of Crosslands Training, and chair of Keswick Ministries. He is the author of over 40 books, including Bible Matters: Making Sense of Scripture, The Glory of the Cross, You Can Change: God’s Transforming Power for Our Sinful Behavior and Negative Emotions, and Why the Reformation Still Matters. He is married to Helen and has two daughters.

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FOMO: A Cunning Weapon of the Enemy and How to Fight Back

By Alli WorthingtonAlli Worthington

I know Eve gets a lot of blame for causing the original sin and all, but let’s take a minute to think about the underlying reasons. Could one of them be Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)?

There she was, just minding her own business, all the while listening to Adam naming every last thing in the garden, having himself a ball, swinging from vines and yelling, “Eve, you have got to do this!” Suddenly, from out of nowhere, up slithers that evil serpent, convincing her she is missing out on something big, something God doesn’t want her to have.

Suddenly, maybe, she felt discontent.

The enemy wields the weapon of discontent through FOMO and it spreads like a virus. Listen to how he convinced Eve that she only “thought” she had it all. Watch how he created FOMO in her, despite her truly perfect life.

Now the serpent was craftier than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. ”For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Genesis 3:1–6)

See what the enemy did there? He planted the seed of longing in her, a seed of discontent that made Eve certain she was missing out. The enemy robbed Eve of the joy of her present circumstances and convinced her to trade that in for a chance at what she was missing.

Just let that sink in for a moment.

And if that weren’t bad enough, Eve had to bring Adam into her FOMO state of mind. Adam was doing stuff in the garden, wrestling bears, skipping rocks, and, well, I don’t know, other man stuff. He had no idea he was missing out on anything until Eve made him aware of his own FOMO.

I can just imagine the scene in the Garden of Eden.

“Adam, I have the most exciting news. The best thing just happened. You have got to try it!”

Adam probably resisted for a moment, but then I imagine he too was captured by the fear of missing out, and he caved in to the call of FOMO.

Later in the Bible, we read the story of the prodigal son and his equally epic case of FOMO (see Luke 15:11–32). There are not many details given us in Scripture as to why he asked his father for his inheritance, but I like to imagine FOMO had a part in it. He must have felt the world outside his homeland offered something he was missing, and he had to have it at all costs.

Just like Adam and Eve, he had everything: a stable home, a loving father, everything he could possibly want or need there at his fingertips. And just like Adam and Eve, he gave up everything to answer the call of FOMO.

And that’s the way FOMO is. It’s highly contagious. We’ve been catching it from each other ever since. The problem now is we catch it in real time from millions of people!

What happened to Adam and Eve and to the prodigal son is the same thing that happens to many of us. We question, “If we stay here, in this place God has created for us, within the confines and safety of his will, will we be missing out?” Knowing that the enemy uses FOMO to draw us outside of the circle of God’s will is the primary reason we must have a battle plan to fight him. Next time you feel an attack of FOMO coming on, try these steps.

1. Check Yourself

The first step is to check yourself. When you are feeling left out or like you’re missing out on something amazing, ask yourself some version of the following questions:

  • Do I really want to be there instead of here?
  • Is that what’s really important right now?
  • Am I feeling jealous of someone else’s fun or success? Is that really my lane to run in?
  • How can I stay focused ahead in my own lane?
  • What do I want that I don’t have right now?
  • Do I have PMS? (Seriously, I always get FOMO when I’m hormonal.)

Most of the time if we go through the process of asking ourselves the tough questions, even when we are upset and emotional, the answers bring freedom.

2. Name the Underlying Emotions

Some have argued that FOMO is a combination of anxiety and envy. (Ouch, that kind of hurts, doesn’t it? No one likes to think of themselves as being envious.) But when we think about all the different ways in our lives that we feel FOMO, one or both of those two emotions tends to be a root cause. In one instance as I watched my sweet girlfriends have the time of their lives in Las Vegas, I felt both anxiety and envy. My anxiety caused me to question my own sense of security. Was I okay? Was I enough? Was my life good enough? Do my friends really still love me? And in my envy I wished I were doing all the things they were doing in that moment. I wanted to go spend a lot of money in the spa, eat fancy dinners, and go see all those shows. But I have five kids, a mortgage, tuition, and lots of sets of braces. Recognizing our ugly emotions like anxiety and envy, then naming them and claiming them (even when they’re uncomfortable), actually helps us move past the very short-lived fear of missing out.

3. Switch Your FOMO into JOMO

“Turn off your phone, go be with the family you adore, and do what you actually love to do.” I had become so focused on what my friends were doing I was neglecting my family at home. Instead of enjoying what was right in front of me, the people I loved most in the world, I was wasting my time, ruining my own happiness. And Megan was right to call me out on it and tell me not to post anything on Instagram. We can’t try to stage joy for shallow validation from people out in social media land; instead, we have to find joy with the people who share our homes and hold our hearts. The way not to buy into the fear of missing out is by opening our eyes to what surrounds us right now, finding the magic in our lives, because often it’s hidden in plain sight. When we see what is wonderful around us we can change our FOMO into JOMO: the Joy of Missing Out.

4. Do Happy Now

This is one of my favorites. Do happy now means going for the quick win. Do something you love immediately: go for a walk, snuggle your kids (or your nieces and nephews), watch your favorite movie on Netflix, love on your pets, read a good book, or do whatever it is you do that always puts a smile on your face.

Just a word of caution on this one, though. Don’t give in to negative ways of alleviating your FOMO, strategies like retail therapy (no matter how great you’ll look in those shoes) or overindulging in your favorite foods or certain beverages. Those things might make you happy in the moment, but down the road, they will be much worse for you than the worst case of FOMO.

The great news about FOMO is it is temporary. When you are in the middle of a FOMO attack, going for the quick win, the fun distraction, or even a quick cuddle from someone you love will usually be enough to let those FOMO storm clouds pass on by.

5. Reframe your thoughts

There is a very cool technique that therapists use called reframing. Essentially it means we take our thoughts or situations and look at them with a new lens, or put them in new frame. When we feel sad, we frame all situations negatively. Our thoughts are more negative.

When we feel angry, we frame things in an angry way. The secret is taking a step back and looking at our thoughts and reactions to see if we can reframe them.

After talking with someone about my friends in Vegas, I realized all the negative thoughts were playing in a loop and making everything look bad. I happened to have a hair elastic around my wrist, so I decided that for the rest of the weekend, every time I found myself brooding or blaming, I’d snap that hair elastic. It wasn’t hard enough to hurt, but it did serve as a silly reminder.

It was so silly, so simple, and amazingly it did make me aware of how often the negative thoughts were dragging me down. Just being aware helped me remember to let out a little “help me, Jesus” prayer, take my thoughts captive, reframe them, and direct my energy back to my family.

Reframing thoughts is a cool trick for battling FOMO. For example, instead of thinking of my friends in Vegas having fun without me and feeling sorry for myself with thoughts like this: Must be nice to go to Vegas and have all that fun. I’ll just be here cleaning the rug, I reframed it to: I chose not to go to Vegas because when I’m there, I don’t like it there. I’m home with the family I love.

6. Stay Focused on Jesus

Five years ago, I wouldn’t have included this section on staying focused on Jesus to battle FOMO. I would’ve found it too trite, too easy, too Sunday school lesson-ish. But as I’ve grown, and walked with Jesus a little longer, I see now that if I’m focused on him, he helps me squash the feelings of envy with gratefulness, his acceptance replaces my feelings of rejection, and his presence fills up my loneliness.

It is only by keeping focused on him and trusting his plans for me that I can silence and defeat the work of the enemy and his tool: FOMO.

Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). His command is so clear, so simple—“Do not worry, believe in God, and believe in me.”

He makes our paths straight; he guides us along still waters; he restores our soul; he knew us before we were born; he sees our lives from beginning to end; and he alone determines our destiny.

He’s teaching me that if I’m meant to do something, or I’m meant to have something, or if I’m meant to be included in something, I will be. Where he wants me is where I’ll be.

Because I know he holds the future, I don’t have to fear that I am missing out. On anything.

________

Fierce FaithAdapted from Fierce Faith: A Woman’s Guide to Fighting Fear, Wrestling Worry, and Overcoming Anxiety by Alli Worthington. Click here to learn more about this title.

Sometimes Jesus’s call to “fear not” seems like the hardest instruction to follow.

Some days you faultlessly juggle everything that is your life—kids, husband, house, job, church, friendships, school, pets, appointments, and on and on. Other days the very thought of which ball you’re going to drop puts your anxiety level through the roof. You’re afraid you’re forgetting something. And you are: God’s advice to fear not.

Alli Worthington knows all about the ways a woman can be hard on herself. She shares her own fear struggles with humor and honesty—while offering real strategies for coping with life’s big worries as well as those little everyday worries.

Alli uses biblical wisdom and practical insight to help you:

  • Identify fear-based thinking.
  • Overcome the big and little worries in life.
  • Learn a simple trick to stop the anxiety spiral.
  • Live a more confident, less worried life.

Grab a cup of coffee and sit down for some encouragement from a friend. Alli’s no-nonsense, wise advice will lighten your heart and help you cut through the daily clutter of fear and worry to reconnect with your own fierce faith.

Alli Worthington helps people be successful in life and business. She is an advisor, speaker, and the Executive Director of Propel Women. As an executive and entrepreneurial coach, Alli helps individuals, small business owners, and Fortune 500 companies be more successful. Alli’s no-nonsense, guilt-free take on motherhood, parenting, and balance has led to appearances on The Today Show and Good Morning America. She lives outside Nashville with her husband, Mark, their five sons, and a pampered rescued dog. You can connect with Alli at AlliWorthington.com.

How to Live The Bible — Guilt and Shame in Everyday Life

howtostudythebible

This is the tenth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.


Though all people are created with conscience—the ability to sense the difference between right and wrong, or good, better, and best—it is possible to become so hard-hearted that it seems one does not even have a conscience.

Man praying with Bible illustration

Conscience is part of the hard wiring of human beings created in God’s image. Romans 2 says that all people have consciences and inner thoughts that sometimes accuse, sometimes excuse. Some people are plagued with a sense of supposed guilt, of active shame. But there are people who have so closed themselves to the voice of conscience that they function as amoral creatures. In an extreme case, the sociopath shows absolutely no regard for other people, indifferent to suffering, which they themselves may inflict, perhaps because he or she suffered severely at the hands of someone else. Human beings can have “seared” consciences. Hard hearts. Corrupted minds.

This is why we desperately need consciences that are active and healthy and balanced. This is part of the foundation of Christian faith. 1 Peter 3:21 calls baptism “an appeal to God for a good conscience.” Hebrews 10:22 says “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 9:14 says that the blood of Christ, his sacrificial death, is what can “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

But like everything else about us, the conscience is fallible. It is possible to have a “weak conscience” (1 Cor. 8:7, 10). The conscience can be “defiled” (Titus 1:5). Worse, it can be “seared” (1 Tim. 4:2), meaning that all its sensitivity is deadened.

So the question is, how can this God-given inner moral responsiveness be protected and refined?

If one of your car’s warning lights comes on, you would do well not to ignore it. Instead, you have a mechanic check it out, who may tell you it is a good thing you heeded the warning because your radiator has a leak, or your engine has burned up most of its oil, or your brake line is clogged. But it is also possible the mechanic will tell you that everything is fine, and that the warning light was malfunctioning.

This is the way it is with conscience. When we are deeply troubled, when our minds are troubled about something we did or said, when our stomachs are twisted in knots, we need to work the issue and figure out whether or not we are guilty, and what needs to happen for rectitude. What matters is figuring out whether we, by objective standards, are guilty, not merely whether we feel guilty, or ashamed. This distinction is frequently forgotten today: being guilty versus feeling guilty; the objective versus the subjective.

If we are guilty of something, it is appropriate that we feel guilty or ashamed of what we did. (More on this in Overcoming Guilt and Shame by Daniel Green and Mel Lawrenz.)

Conscience is a God-given moral sensitivity that sometimes delivers a sense of being right, and at other times of being wrong. The question then becomes: is the voice of conscience, right here, right now, delivering an accurate message?

Many people suffer from an overly-sensitive conscience which troubles them unnecessarily. Some people really suffer with this. They have been put to shame by important people in their lives for long stretches of time. They have perpetually troubled hearts. They have a hard time resting in the forgiveness of God. They may take Christian faith as a whole system of shame imposed on them. They may feel as though they need to live under restrictions that are not necessary (which is approximately what Paul meant by the “weak conscience” of some in 1 Corinthians 8).

The young Martin Luther was like this. He said he labored under “an extremely disturbed conscience” that was misplaced and exaggerated. After he discovered the real meaning of the gospel of grace his conscience was liberated. And he would need it. Years later he would stand before the most powerful leaders of his day who were demanding that he recant what he had written about the grace and truth found in Christ. But his conscience would not let him take back what he had written. His famous words before an emperor and other powerful men still echo today:

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason–for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves—I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.”

Some see in Luther’s brave stand the exemplar of modern man, asserting personal conscience above all other people or leaders or institutions. But that misses Luther’s main point. He said his conscience was “captive to the Word of God,” not that his conscience was its own lord and master.

It is not good to be tortured by an overly-sensitive conscience. And it is disastrous to hurt others because we have “seared” consciences. Living the Bible means one’s conscience is submitted to God’s word in the fullness of its grace and truth. This will happen when we read Scripture without bias or preference—regularly, thoughtfully, intelligently—asking the Spirit of God to shape us from the inside out.

Find forgiveness, find freedom, find restored conscience…

[If you believe this series will be helpful, this is the perfect time to forward this to a friend, a group, or a congregation, and tell them they too may sign up for the weekly emails here]


Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.

A Woman’s Guide to the Psalms: An Interview with Lydia Brownback

Lydia BrownbackFear, joy, heartache, anger, frustration, doubt; the book of Psalms displays an incredible range of human emotions as they’re expressed toward God in prayer and song.

Bible Gateway interviewed Lydia Brownback about her book, Sing a New Song: A Woman’s Guide to the Psalms (Crossway, 2017).

How is your book different from other devotionals about the book of Psalms?

Buy your copy of Sing a New Song: A Woman's Guide to the Psalms in the Bible Gateway Store where you'll enjoy low prices every day

Lydia Brownback: Sing a New Song isn’t actually a devotional per se. It’s more of a hybrid; a cross between a devotional and a tool for Bible study. For each of the 150 psalms in the Psalter, readers are given a one-sentence overview of the psalm along with a brief summary of how it fits into the big picture of Psalms. After this is a verse-by-verse breakdown of the psalm. I then try to shed light on how the psalm reveals particular aspects of God’s character. Each entry concludes with a suggestion for follow-up Scripture reading and personal application.

Describe the book of Psalms for someone who’s not familiar with it.

Lydia Brownback: The Psalter is the ultimate hymnal of God’s people, not only for those who first sang the psalms but for all believers in every age. We think of the psalms as prayers, because they’re cries of the heart lifted up to the Lord. But what’s so amazing is that these prayers were meant to be expressed in song.

Singing serves as an outlet for our deepest emotions: joy, sorrow, anger, fear, perplexity, discouragement, and longing. The full range of human feelings is there in the psalms and lifted up to God in prayerful song. This raw outpouring of honest emotion is perhaps why Psalms is the most loved book of the Bible.

But what makes these songs different from all others is that God is the focal point. Unique facets of his nature are revealed in every psalm, and as the psalmists focus on the Lord, their emotions and thoughts are reshaped. Since the psalms are primarily about God, we’re transformed as we immerse ourselves in this hymnal of Scripture.

How do you want people to use your book?

Lydia Brownback: I see Sing a New Song as a springboard—a launching-off place—for going deep into this vital portion of Scripture. At the end of the book, readers will find detailed instructions for how to prepare a small-group Bible study on Psalms. Alternatively, readers who wish to explore on a more personal level will find detailed guidance for journaling through the psalms.

What do the Psalms have to say to people who struggle with fear in its different manifestations?

Lydia Brownback: Much indeed! The psalms show us that God invites us to be honest with him about our fears, no matter their source. The psalmists express fear about all sorts of difficulties, including troubles they’ve brought upon themselves. We see in their songs that God never turns them away but meets them in the midst of those fearful places and delivers them.

King David, who wrote many of the psalms, battled fear on numerous occasions, but each and every time, God was faithful to deliver him. On one occasion, David’s very own son was trying to kill him, so David hid in a cave. Surely this was an occasion not only for great fear but also for great grief. So he pours out his heart to God: “O LORD, how many are my foes! Many are rising against me” (Ps. 3:1). But as he lifts the eyes of his heart upward, he’s reminded that God is his protector, defender, and deliverer, so he’s able to sing, “I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me” (v. 6).

In another psalm David sings, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1).

On yet another occasion David rejoices in deliverance: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Ps. 34:4).

God meeting his people in the fears they face is a thread that runs all through the Psalter. In fact, those who struggle with fear and anxiety might want to focus on this theme when journaling through Psalms.

How do the Psalms help a person become more relational with God?

Lydia Brownback: Each and every psalm reveals our complete neediness, along with God’s corresponding provision for those needs. After all, isn’t that the nature of what it means to walk with God? We can do nothing without him, so when we see and acknowledge that reality, our hearts are humbled and tenderized for transformation into his will and ways.

So in the psalms God is praised for relieving troubles, providing basic necessities, healing broken hearts, and exercising his kingship on his people’s behalf. He’s sought after by lonely human beings who want to walk in his blessed paths.

More glorious, however, is that the psalms show that the Almighty God is incredibly patient with his people’s sin and blindness, and that he loves us so much that he’s ever present to comfort, forgive, and restore us to his joyous fellowship. He cares even more about our relationship with him than we do, which becomes clear as we study the psalms.

What Psalm is your favorite and why?

Lydia Brownback: It’s so hard to choose just one, because I love so many for different reasons. But one of my most favorites is Psalm 73. It was written by Asaph, a man who struggled with his faith when he became discontented with his lot in life.

The root of Asaph’s problem was envy: “My feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:2–3). He envied the wealthy and prosperous, and he envied those who had no faith in God. To his way of thinking, they lived enjoyable lives with few restrictions, while those who remain faithful to the Lord seem to suffer a good deal more.

Asaph’s bitter heart grew more and more discouraged, but then he got a spiritual dose of reality: “When I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I discerned their end” (vv. 16–17). It’s so clear right there. Asaph lifted his eyes off himself and up to God. And when he did, he saw that those who appear to have it all actually have nothing if they don’t have the Lord as their God.

Getting into the presence of God is what changed him, and as we follow his story, we learn so much about our own struggles with contentment and how to remedy that. Asaph is so transformed that he’s able to say (and truly mean): “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you” (v. 25). That declaration is the essence of contentment, and as we learn to sing Asaph’s song, we too can find what he found.

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway?

Lydia Brownback: I’ve relied on Bible Gateway for many years as the go-to website for up-to-date Bible translations—so many versions! Few people can afford to build an actual library of all these different Bible translations, but for those of us who write and teach, we need ready-access to them, and we have it through Bible Gateway. Thank you for this valuable resource!


Bio: Lydia Brownback (MAR, Westminster Theological Seminary) serves as a senior editor at Crossway in Wheaton, Illinois, and a speaker at women’s conferences around the world, and an author of many books, including A Woman’s Wisdom: How the Book of Proverbs Speaks to Everything, Finding God in My Loneliness and Contentment: A Godly Woman’s Adornment. Lydia previously served as writer in residence for Alistair Begg and as producer of the Bible Study Hour radio program with James Montgomery Boice.

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This Year Select a Bible Reading Plan That’s Right for You

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If you haven’t already determined to regularly and consistently read the Bible, RIGHT NOW is always the best time to make that decision. And you can always rely on Bible Gateway to provide you with a variety of resources to make it happen:

Our free Bible reading plans and devotionals are available all year long: they’re ready when you are!

[Read Bible Gateway Blog posts that introduce you to the Bible]

If you’re wondering how much time is required to read each book of the Bible, the website desiringGod has created the following chart of estimated reading lengths:
Approximate times to read each book of the English Bible

With this chart in mind, blogger Wes McAdams has assembled A New Sort of Bible Reading Plan, listed below with links to each book of the Bible on Bible Gateway:

The Torah (January 1 – February 4)

The Prophets (February 5 – April 1)

The Writings (April 2 – May 27)

The Gospel Accounts and Acts (May 28 – July 1)

  • Week 22 – Matthew (2.5 hours)
  • Week 23 – Mark (1.5 hours)
  • Week 24 – Luke (2.5 hours)
  • Week 25 – John (2 hours)
  • Week 26 – Acts (2.25 hours)

Paul’s Epistles (July 2 – August 26)

General Epistles (August 27 – September 23)

Revelation (September 24 – September 30)

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Bible News Roundup – Week of January 7, 2018

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Reading the Bible a Popular New Year’s Goal
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A Fragile Biblical Text Gets a Virtual Read
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Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Latest Biblical Archaeology Research

Historic Bible On Display At Mercy Hospital In Fort Smith, Arkansas
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Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Saint John’s Bible: A Work of Art

North Korea Tops 2018 Open Doors World Watch List
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Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, I Am N: An Interview with Cole Richards and Jason Peters
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, The Staggering Picture of Christian Persecution: An Interview with Johnnie Moore
Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Bible Verses for the International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church
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Bible Passages Read by Former Ghana Presidents at the National Thanksgiving Church Service
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Read Leviticus 25:7-8 on Bible Gateway
Read Psalm 100:1-5 on Bible Gateway
Read Luke 12:16-21 on Bible Gateway

Kyrgyzstan: Militants Torch Church But Bible Survives
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